Insight: A Surprise Mother-Daughter Relationship at Bright
last updated 14 October 2019
Here at The Bright Agency we love to support artists of all generations. From the notably experienced to the uni-fresh, we have always been proud of the diverse age range of our illustrators. That is why we were absolutely delighted to discover that we have a mother and daughter on our books!
At New Designers this year, children’s agent Robyn was immediately drawn to the whimsical characters and palpable glow of Alice Samuel’s work. It wasn’t until we had officially welcomed Alice aboard, that she revealed Janet Samuel (a cherished Bright artist since 2005) is her mum.
We got in touch to find out a bit more about their family and work dynamic.
How do you think having an illustrator Mum influenced your decision to become an artist?
Since my mum works from home I have always been around her illustrations. I would watch her draw and would always be asked for my opinion about her work, (and I never shied away from giving it). However, I was actually a late bloomer into art. I rather fancied myself going into a career in forensics or becoming a police officer, but after doing my Art GCSE I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Tell us a bit about your degree and how you have honed your style?
I loved my experience in university; the projects that we were given really allowed me to explore different ways of working. I was able to experiment with a lot of different media in my first year, but nothing ever felt right. It was in one of our digital art classes where I mixed both traditional and digital media together that it just clicked for me. I was then able to hone that style and apply it into the Narrative project in my second year, and I have been using it ever since.
Do you think there are any similarities between your style and your mum’s?
I think that being around my mum’s work has definitely influenced my drawing at a young age; I learned by imitating her style. But by the time I started my GCSE Art projects, so many different interests had influenced me up until that point that it’s difficult to say what has influenced what. Sometimes I see similarities in how our characters may be drawn, but generally I think that we are very different.
Is it important to you to find your own way in this industry?
Of course! Every illustrator wants to stand out and I’m no different. I have worked hard in the hopes of my style being something new and interesting, and when Bright came to me at New Designers I was absolutely thrilled to speak with them! It’s lovely to know that the hard work has paid off and I can’t wait to continue developing my work with them!
Did you draw together when Alice was a child?
All the time! When Alice was two years old, I started an Illustration degree as a mature student, so if I wasn’t drawing fun things with Alice, she was at the table next to me, drawing, as I was working on my Uni projects.
When did you notice Alice’s talent for illustration?
When Alice was three years old, she drew an amazing Piglet from the Winnie-the-Pooh books. I thought it was fantastic! She didn’t start taking art seriously until her GCSEs. She enjoyed Geography and Science, so I was expecting to be Mum to a Conservation Officer or Forensic Scientist! I think she was finding her own identity and following in Mum’s footsteps was not the way to go. But during her Art GCSE, she found her passion and has not looked back since. I think every parent hopes to share a common interest with their child. It’s lovely that Alice and I can garner each other’s opinions, bounce ideas off each other and support each other when needed. I have always asked Alice’s opinion of my work (since she was two years old) and she’s very good at giving it!
How did you feel when Alice was approached by Bright?
Extremely happy! She really wanted to illustrate for a living and has worked her socks off to build a fantastic body of work during her degree, and she was hoping to be noticed by an agent at the New Designers show. It was so lovely that it was Bright approached that Alice. It took me back 15 years to when the same thing happened to me. I know she’s in safe hands.
Do you see any of your style in Alice’s work?
Alice has developed a very strong and individual style of her own, which I am very proud of.
Janet and Alice
Do you bounce ideas off each other or keep your creative processes separate?
We both enjoy working in the same environment and although we follow our own work processes, it’s nice to have that friendly face nearby.
Do you have similar tastes in Art and Design?
We both like a lot of the same picture book illustrators such as Chris Riddell and Shaun Tan. We also love watching Laurel and Hardy films together.
Can you pick a favourite piece from each other’s portfolios?
J - I adore Alice’s piece featuring the children walking over a bridge. It oozes magic and I really want to know where the children are going and what adventures they are going to encounter! Alice’s work has a lovely softness to it, and the colour and light she manages to achieve is wonderful.
A - I really love the artwork that my Mum illustrated for Gilly John’s book ‘The Grimpots’, but there is one spread in particular that stands out to me: Gus and Dave swimming deep in the sea and the eels lighting their way. It’s such an atmospheric piece with wonderful characters and it has a great use of negative space!
What were your favourite children’s books to read together?
The one that springs to mind for us both is ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Alice would request numerous readings most nights. Another favourite was ‘Pumpkin Soup’ by Helen Cooper. We both love the gorgeous illustrations and the wonderful friendships between the characters. We also enjoyed ‘The Giant Turnip’ illustrated by Niamh Sharkey.
Alice and Janet are both available for new projects, please check out their wonderful portfolios here: